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Critically discuss the view that eating disorders are caused by genetic and biological factors. With reference to the biological and genetic explanations whilst also trying to offer alternative explanations.

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Introduction

Critically discuss the view that eating disorders are caused by genetic and biological factors. With reference to the biological and genetic explanations whilst also trying to offer alternative explanations. Eating disorders are only one category of mental disorder but which affect the most amounts of people. Individuals with eating disorders have some problem with food for example they may over eat (obesity) or they may under eat (anorexia) or they may vomit repeatedly after binging on vast quantities of food (bulimia). There is evidence that such disorders may have a genetic basis but could also equally be triggered by biological factors. Anorexia Nervosa, to give it its full name, is literally a nervous lack of appetite. Brief explanations of some of the characteristics are as follows. - There is a deliberate and prolonged restriction of calorific intake and considerable weight loss with the weight usually falling to less than 85% of the person's normal weight. ...read more.

Middle

Most of them are within 10% of their correct body weight. But with every type of disease or condition there are always different schools of thought, which try to prove why the condition has occurred. Explanations for these two conditions can be proven via biological explanations. One type of biological explanation for anorexia is that there are biochemical abnormalities, i.e. the person may have disordered hormones. Secondly it may be because of damage to their neuroanatomy particularly damage to the hypothalamus which may result in loss of appetite, as well as disturbances to menstruation. But lastly and perhaps most importantly Genetic transmission which have had the most studies done on it. Holland et al (1988), found some evidence to form an opinion that anorexia is genetic. His aim was to find whether more MZ twins developed anorexia (twins which came form the same egg therefore 100% genetically similar), or DZ twins (twins which came from different eggs therefore were only 50% genetically similar). ...read more.

Conclusion

Firstly there are the biochemical abnormalities; decreased serotonin activity may be responsible for bulimia. People with bulimia suffer specifically from carbohydrate craving (Turner et al. 1991) and increased consumption of carbohydrates increases production of serotonin. This has led to the use of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) in the treatment of bulimia. But again there is the theory of genetic transmission and a study with twins by Kendler et al. (1991) tried to prove this. It found that there was a 26% concordance rate for MZ twins and a 16% for DZ twins. This suggests that bulimia has a strong genetic component, but it is not as strong as that found in anorexia. About half of the variation in bulimia is due to genetic factors and half to environmental. But with all studies there are criticisms, twins may not be representative. Klump et al. (1999) studied individuals with eating disorders who were MZ, DZ or non-twins and found differences in the groups in terms of the symptoms. This suggests that twins may not be representative of the general population for eating disordered behaviour. Duncan Harvey ...read more.

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